Matt Brocklebank picks out five 'forgotten' three-year-olds who could yet make a big impression on the biggest races this season.
*First published 18/07/19
MICRO MANAGE – Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins doesn’t have many horses go under the radar, but what do you know about his three-year-old colt by Rip Van Winkle?
No, not many people do.
But Micro Manage could be galloping onto your radar long before next year’s Cheltenham Festival – the wildly impressive Curragh handicap winner holding a fascinating long-range spot in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.
The entries for the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster close next Tuesday and you’d be slightly surprised if his name didn’t feature.
If Mullins is ever to win a British Flat Classic, then is makes sense the Leger would be the one. And Micro Manage is a horse of massive potential.
His maiden win at Tipperary last October came at the expense of last month's Royal Ascot winner South Pacific, while he was beating previous (and subsequent) winner Cuban Hope hollow in the aforementioned handicap at the Curragh.
“He does all the right things at home and he should improve plenty for it,” was Mullins’ assistant David Casey’s assessment following his latest stroll and, now rated 108, his handicap days are over with a step into the big league very much on the agenda.
He's a big old unit who hits the ground hard so don't be concerned about him on deeper going heading into the autumn.
BUCKHURST – Joseph O’Brien
It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that debut winner Buckhurst has been a bit of a slow burner for Joseph O’Brien, but he does seem to be improving with racing.
That maiden win first time out at Leopardstown in April saw him fast-tracked to Group Three company and in truth the Derrinstown Stud Stakes looked to come a bit too soon. He was far from disgraced on the day, though, and clearly improved on that level of form when pushing Constantinople close at the Curragh.
Back in the groove with a ready success in the Group Three International Stakes returned to the Curragh over Irish Derby weekend, he looked a horse full on confidence and open to significant further improvement.
Entries in the Ballyroan (August 8), Royal Whip (August 16), Great Voltigeur (August 21) and Irish St Leger (September 15) give an idea of his next possible appearance, three of those races at 12 furlongs and beyond.
He’s got a very attractive pedigree and looks the type of horse O’Brien junior will have a lot of fun with if he stays in training over the next couple of seasons but, more immediately, he could emerge as a St Leger type - Irish or English.
NEVER NO MORE – Aidan O’Brien
Ten Sovereigns put up the most striking advert for No Nay Never’s first crop of three-year-olds when storming the Darley July Cup, but Never No More had already made a pretty decent impression.
He wasn’t a star among the Ballydoyle juveniles last season, a small race at Dundalk when long odds-on his only score, but he was two from two this spring before suffering a setback.
An ultimately comfortable half-length defeat of subsequent Derby second Madhmoon in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on April 6 has obviously worked out very well and a couple of entries at Glorious Goodwood this month suggest the horse might be close to a return.
His wins in March and April came on easy ground but given everything we know about No Nay Never’s progeny in general, there could be a fair bit more to come when this colt tackles proper, summer conditions and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him rate much higher than his current BHA figure of 107.
QUORTO – Charlie Appleby
Charlie Appleby’s annus mirabilis was always going to be a hard act to follow.
Winning the Investec Derby with Masar, Lexus Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter, Prix de l’Opera with Wild Illusion and countless other major races across the world last season set the bar pretty high.
And 2019 didn’t start well with the news that unbeaten Dubawi colt Quorto had suffered an injury.
Roll on to mid-summer and, with leading older horses Blue Point and Masar perhaps slightly surprisingly retired despite being fit and well, and the return of Quorto cannot come soon enough for Godolphin and principal Newmarket trainer Appleby.
The horse’s two-year-old form could hardly have worked out much better, subsequent winners emerging from his Newmarket novice, the Superlative Stakes at the July Festival and National Stakes runner-up, Anthony Van Dyck, winning the Derby.
Quorto hasn’t raced all year but his latest published BHA mark of 121 puts him right up there with the likes of Too Darn Hot (121), Magna Grecia (118) and Phoenix Of Spain (120).
They all have realistic pretensions of emerging as the champion three-year-old colt – and so should Quorto, whose "autumn return" is eagerly anticipated.
MAQSAD – William Haggas
Dual Guineas winner Hermosa could be quite difficult to dethrone when it comes to queen bee in the three-year-old fillies’ division, especially given the anticipated improvement when she tackles a mile and a quarter.
But Maqsad was a significant eyecatcher in the Inveestec Oaks when clearly not getting the distance after travelling sweetly for Jim Crowley.
She suffered a bit of a rough trip but was under consideration to drop right back to a mile for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot before Haggas opted to sit tight.
It could be a move that pays dividends and she’s still a filly of major interest this season.
We may see her back in the Group One Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, where Hermosa would most likely lie in wait, but the Matron Stakes over a mile could just suit her style ideally.
Given the fact Haggas has happily campaigned his fillies in Ireland over the past couple of years, Champions Weekend at Leopardstown may be the race which allows Maqsad to realise her full potential at the top table.